Kathmandu, 27 August : The fourth summit meeting of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is taking place in Kathmandu on August 30 and 31. It will bring together the heads of state or governments of seven countries who will put their heads together for building a prosperous BIMSTEC.
The summit meeting of the sub-regional grouping of five countries from South Asia and two countries from South East Asia is expected to have a long term impact on regional diplomacy.
The meeting will not only highlight Nepal’s positive image at the international level but will also demonstrate its diplomatic acumen.
Former diplomat Dinesh Bhattarai paints BIMSTEC as the appropriate forum for expanding regional cooperation as well as expounding the tenets of Nepal’s foreign policy. According to him, summit meetings as that of BIMSTEC would have a lasting impact in the field of diplomacy for promoting Nepal’s national interests and wellbeing as well as for cooperative partnership at the regional level. Bhattarai said the conference would further burnish Nepal’s diplomatic influence and image.
BIMSTEC is establishing itself as the bridge for development and connectivity of South Asia and South East Asia, the two sub-regions of Asia which are dynamic and full of development potentials. This regional group could be a medium to successfully pursue regional cooperation and partnership as it has huge possibility for tourism development due to its diverse geography that stretches from the snow-capped Himalayas to the azure seas.
The countries comprising BIMSTEC are also rich in terms of archaeological and historical heritages, besides being bestowed with natural beauty, cultural diversity and human resources. The BIMSTEC Development Fund that is being proposed in the fourth summit could be helpful in boosting up tourism especially through the promotion of eco-tourism and Buddhist Circuit.
The sole goal and objective of this sub-regional body is to take the nations towards peace, prosperity and sustainability. But it is still lagging behind in view of economic prosperity and social progress compared to the ASEAN, the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations.
Extreme poverty has held back the BIMSTEC nations and the goal and objective of the organisation is to eradicate poverty and to bring rapid economic development and social progress. The farsighted leadership of BIMSTEC is focused on the holistic prosperity of citizens and is cooperating and working in partnership in the areas of trade, investment, tourism, energy, transport and communications, the areas having direct concerns with people’s life. All are alert to the issue of climate change and its consequences.
The informal meet of the top leadership of BIMSTEC held two years ago in Goa of India ended with commitments to seriously working for the development of agricultural sector remaining as the backbone of economy and a base for people’s livelihood. The same meet had insisted on the promotion of food security, crops diversification, livestock and fruits and vegetables farming.
The BIMSTEC high leadership has decided to focus on specific areas for cooperation by reducing the 14 areas of cooperation determined during the establishment, bearing in mind their relevancy, effectiveness and necessary. Now this has been concentrated on five areas-communications and expansion of ties, poverty reduction, trade and investment increase, cooperation in hydropower and climate change and control of its consequences. The upcoming fourth Summit is expected to come up with a conclusion to this regard going through in-depth discussions.
Collective prosperity and development of member states, promotion of regional relations and friendship, venue for trade, extension of interconnections via water and air routes , and increase in relations and connection at the people’s level would contribute to mutual understandings and cooperation and this should not be forgot while taking the organization ahead. Deeper connectivity and durable relationship among the member states are preconditions to make regional cooperation effective and result oriented. The fourth Summit needs to work, keeping these issues on top priority.
The sub regional organization is an effective mean to extend connectivity among the member states. Until and unless, all measures are adopted by the member states to extend the connectivity forging consensus, the discussions will be limited in discussions only.
Nepal as a landlocked country, it could be benefited much from such forum for connectivity. Trade and promotion of goods in an international market are basic assets for effective and enriched BIMSTEC.
However, the region has an immense possibility of extension of trade; it is yet to achieve expected success. Though the member states have held discussion for 20 times to introduce free trade agreement for obstacle free market in the region, it is still, yet to be implemented in action. The fourth summit is expected to finalize this provision.
BIMSTEC has prioritized to enhance economic, trade and investment cooperation among the member states. The progressively, liberalize and promote trade in goods and services, creating a transparent, liberal and facilitative investment regime is the motto of the body.
Similarly, exploring new areas and develop appropriate measures for closer cooperation among the parties, facilitate the more effective economic integration of the least developed countries in the region and bridge the gap among the member states are awaiting in the region through the organization. Though, Thailand and India are boosting economic growth, other states are still waiting for the same.
The energy sector might be a major and optimistic area to enhance the development in the region. The BIMSTEC trans-greed connectivity agreement is in the final phase of signature and after the endorsement of it, the way for development and prosperity in the region through energy will be widened and smoothed.